There are only five more days until Consumed is released! I am so excited! I had a lot of fun writing the story of Harlow Jones. She is an easy character to relate to, and writing her scenes has always been an enjoyable thing for me.
Before you read Consumed, you might want to check out the first book…Collide. In it, Harlow falls for the wrong guy and makes quite a few enemies. Iain Bentley captures her attention and her heart. She feels a connection with him that is unlike anything she has ever felt before. The only problem…he is her 12th grade English teacher. Harlow gets tangled up in a mess when she tries to expose the corrupt Chief of Police and his vile son. She jeopardizes everything to do the right thing…including her happiness, her credibility, and her relationship with Iain Bentley. Collide is on sale right now for under a dollar.
Consumed focuses more on Harlow’s aftermath. Harlow waited two years to hear or see some sign from Iain that he still loved her. In the wake of his silence, all she can do is reflect upon their relationship and try to move on. At first, she has zero interest in anybody…until Jax Walker appears in her life, a beckon of light and hope. But as Harlow tries to move forward, the demons of her past rear their ugly heads…reminding her just how much control she doesn’t have. She has to face the ghosts of her past before she can move on with her future…and one ghost in particular refuses to let her go…
You can pre-order your copy of Consumed, and it will be delivered on December 15th to your reading device!
You can also enter to win an ARC (advanced readers copy) of Consumed! Giveaway closes December 13th.
Plus…I have a little treat for those of you that haven’t had a chance to read Collide yet. Click “read more” to read a sample from the first chapter.
The following is an excerpt from Collide, available for purchase on Amazon and Kobo. Copyright 2014 J.C. Hannigan. All rights reserved.
I stood in front of the bathroom mirror, critically studying myself.
I don’t know why I was so concerned with my appearance when I had never overly cared about it before.
Maybe I was fretting because it was the first day of school. My long black hair had a natural slight curl to it. I rarely had to do anything to it short of brush it, run some product through it and blow dry it. My eyes were a striking dark, deep green, or so many guys had told me. They were usually the creepy old men I encountered at every place I worked. They were also quick to compliment me on my breasts. For a 17-year-old girl, I had quite the voluptuous curves that gained me a lot of attention with the opposite sex, which was probably the cause of my unpopularity among the other females for the duration of my high school career thus far.
Somewhat begrudgingly, I finished critiquing myself and expertly applied my signature look: liquid eyeliner, mascara, and bold red lipstick. Whenever I had the chance, I wore black, although my new school required I wear the typical Catholic schoolgirl uniform. I had done my best to add my own personal flair, but it was pretty much hopeless. I looked like a slutty Catholic schoolgirl, which could have been fun…but not when everyone else was going to look like slutty Catholic schoolgirls.
“Lord save me,” I said sarcastically, rolling my eyes. If I made it to graduation, I would need to reward myself with a new tattoo.
Mom told me that I would be attending a Catholic school with a scared look on her face. We had never been religious before Mom’s new husband, Larry. I wasn’t surprised in the least that Mom jumped aboard the Catholic train and embraced her “newfound faith” with an insane schedule of church, fundraising meetings, and volunteering in the Sunday school classroom, but I was pissed that she wanted me to jump aboard too. I didn’t understand what she saw in Larry—the sex couldn’t be that good. Larry was an overweight 57-year-old man who ran the Catholic School Board in the region, which was probably how Mom weaseled a spot for me.
“It’s the best education you could get,” Mom countered when I forcefully said no to the whole Catholic school thing. “They choose students that graduate from this high school over others in college and university applications.”
That got my attention. Despite my outward appearance and rebellious behaviour, school was very important to me. I had always effortlessly excelled in school. I wanted to graduate top of my class and get into a top university. I would be an English major. I had a passion for writing, a love for the written word, and saw the beauty of poetry.
Still, I found the whole thing with Larry and my mom somewhat creepy. He wasn’t the kind of guy I would have picked out for my mom in a thousand years. My mom was a stunning woman. She ate healthy and exercised regularly so that her body stayed toned and thin. She had great skin and looked much younger than her 38 years. She could do so much better than lumpy Larry.
Mom and Larry hadn’t known each other all that long before Larry proposed and Mom said yes. Suddenly we were leaving Southern Ontario for the great North. I think Larry had some kind of twisted desire to save us both or something. He was forever trying to play the overly concerned father card. It was annoying. I had been on my own with Mom for so long. We’d gotten along just fine without him. I had been able to come and go without her interference. She’d let it go, convincing herself that I was the good responsible daughter who couldn’t possibility be up to no good.
When she met Larry all that changed. I guess I was partly to blame. I started getting into more and more trouble, and with Larry there noticing everything, it got harder and harder for Mom to pretend that there wasn’t a problem. There wasn’t really a problem. I didn’t do hard drugs; I just got myself into a couple bad situations when I got in with the wrong crowd.
My mom’s desire to move us up North with Larry increased after last winter. I was in a car accident that killed my best friend Lauren. My boyfriend, Rhys, was driving us home from a party, completely coked out of his mind. Lauren and I hadn’t had the slightest clue that he was high. We were young and stupid and had no idea what the signs were. Granted, both of us were drunk, but I hadn’t seen Rhys do a single thing. He’d been in and out of the bathroom a few times, but how was I to know? It wasn’t until after the accident that I learned of his cocaine habit.
Lauren’s death was a traumatic experience for me, and I missed her more than I could even begin to express.
The attention I received after the funeral was too much for me, especially with Lauren gone forever. When my Mom put her foot down about moving up North with Larry, it surprised us all, but I went willingly. There was nothing tying me to Toronto, and a new start sounded alluring. I wouldn’t be “that girl whose boyfriend killed her best friend and almost killed her” or worse, what I was known as before Lauren’s death—the school whore. That reputation was harder to stomach without my best friend by my side.
So far, I hadn’t made any friends. A week after we moved in with Larry, I got a waitressing job at a local diner down the road from my new high school. I was a little young to pull off the gig, but the diner owner didn’t care too much, since I was only four months away from being 18. The clusters of high school girls that came in didn’t enjoy my company, nor did I enjoy theirs.
“Honey! Are you just about finished?” Mom asked timidly, tapping against the bathroom door. “I can give you a lift to school.”
I threw open the door, my jaw clenched and my eyes hard. I was still punishing her for, well, everything. I avoided looking into her pale hazel eyes, one of only a few differences between the two of us, and a slight one at that. I’d also inherited my father’s plump lips while Mom’s were thin. Despite those two things, I looked exactly like she had at 17, which I didn’t mind. She had been gorgeous, and still was, if not worn and exhausted looking…probably thanks to me.
Unluckily for her, luckily for me (depending on how you looked at it), I had also inherited my dad’s rough personality opposed to her needy clingy one. I knew she was concerned about me, and always had been, and I knew that my attitude did little to diffuse that concern…but I couldn’t stop myself.
“I’ll take the bus,” I said, brushing past her and down the hallway. Luckily, Larry was already gone for the day. So far, he hadn’t done anything to merit my feelings of discomfort, but still. I didn’t trust anybody. Not even my mom. She knew it, and she was forever going to ridiculous lengths to prove to me that she could be trusted.
She was constantly hovering over me, asking me if I was all right. She always had this concerned look on her face, and it would immediately put me into a foul mood. She treated me like fine china, which I hated. I was far from weak. However, there were a few perks. She typically allowed me to get my way with most things, if it meant that I was happy.
Part of me felt guilty for making her jump through hoops constantly, but I couldn’t stop myself. I couldn’t stop punishing her for things that couldn’t be changed now, and I couldn’t stop feeling as if she’d failed me. There was guilt that rode along with those feelings, which made me typically act out in anger toward her.
I slipped into my black leather jacket (the last thing I had that belonged to my dad) and put in my headphones, walking out the front door and down the suburban street to the bus stop. I took my time walking and smoked a joint, enjoying the sense of calm that took over me. Lauren had been the one to introduce me to the benefits of marijuana. I found it was one of the only things that calmed my frazzled nerves.
A small group of other high school students was already waiting for the bus. They looked younger than I was. Regardless, I had no plans on talking to anybody right then and there. I ignored their stares and finished my joint, tossing the roach onto the road as if it were a simple cigarette. A couple kids dared to look at me, but I met their gazes with a challenging one of my own. No one knew what to say, so they didn’t say anything at all.
The bus was overcrowded, and I had to sit with some ninth grade kid with greasy hair and terrible skin. If I wasn’t on a mission to avoid make small talk, I would have told him about the wonders of deodorant and how it could potentially save his social status, but who was I to talk about social status? Instead, I breathed through my mouth and focused on the vinyl seat in front of me, thinking about how I really needed to buy a car. This was one of those times where I physically had to restrain myself from sending a text to Lauren. She would have found the whole thing hilarious. I felt a sharp pain in my chest at the thought that I couldn’t talk to her anymore, but I brushed it aside and stared at the seat in front of me.
Stepping off the bus was a relief, although the ninth grade kid’s scent lingered for a few moments longer than I would have liked. I adjusted the strap of my book bag and followed everyone up the stairs into the school. It was loud, as high school hallways are. Nobody stared at me as if I were out of place as I walked down the hall; I guess they were used to seeing unfamiliar faces the first day of school. A few of the male students did a couple double takes, whispering, trying to discover who I was. I smiled my flirtatious, seductive smile at a group of guys hanging out by the cafeteria doors. They looked like my type, the stoner group. It was the glassy eyes and overuse of Axe body spray that tipped me off.
“Hey, what’s your name?” one of them asked when I had almost passed them. He was tall, scrawny, and very cute with shaggy brown hair that was almost a little too long and soft brown eyes. A band T-shirt peaked out from under his uniform: Metallica, from the looks of it.
“Harlow, yours?” I replied, not stopping. If he wanted to talk to me, he was going to have to keep up, although I had no idea where I was planning on going. I had to find all my classes, and considering I’d never to the school before…I knew that was likely going to be a challenge. The last thing I was going to do was appear helpless though, despite the anxiety I was feeling. I pushed up the sleeves of my jacket, feeling overheated. The guy followed me.
“Jake Patterson,” he answered, giving me a large grin. His teeth were slightly crooked, but there was something endearing about him. He was like an adorable little puppy. “You’re new here?”
“It would appear so,” I smiled, entertained by his eagerness and all the while searching for the principle’s office. I needed to check in before I headed to class.
“How come you look so familiar?” he asked, peering at me as if he was trying to remember where he had seen my face before.
“I’m in a couple of porn movies,” I replied airily. I didn’t even laugh at his bewildered expression. People rarely knew how to take me, since I always looked serious and spoke seriously. “Kidding. I work at that diner down the road.”
“Oh ya! You waitress there!” Jake laughed. I gave him a steady look, slightly amused but more or less just waiting to see where this was going. Now that he’d mentioned my looking familiar, I realized that he—and his friends—also looked familiar. They were the group of guys that frequently came in smelling of my favourite scent: marijuana.
“And you’re the group that comes in every once in a while and tips really crappy,” I said, giving him another smile before I spotted the sign for the main office, and breezed away from him.
It was significantly quieter in the principle’s office. A receptionist with huge brown 80s hair was answering phone calls. She held her chubby finger up at me, silencing me although I had yet to speak.
“Yes, I’ll put you through to Mr. Osborne,” she was saying into the phone. “Have a great day! Can I help you?” I was staring at the boring speckled tile thinking about how wonderful it would be to skip class, indefinitely. Lots of kids were getting their high school diploma online, so why couldn’t I?
“Excuse me, I said can I help you?” she repeated slowly, as if I were deaf.
“Oh, sorry,” I stepped forward. “I’m new here. Harlow Jones.”
“Hello Miss Jones, I have your schedule here,” the chubby receptionist said, handing me a timetable and a map. “Enjoy your first day! If you have any questions, please feel free to ask!” I reached out with my right hand, following her gaze down to the tattoo on my inner forearm that was only half covered by the sleeve of my jacket. I’d forgotten I pushed them up. It was my most recent tattoo, of a quill and an inkpot. It symbolized my love of writing. The detail in the feather was breathtaking. My other tattoo was a cherry blossom tree that crept up my right rib cage and cupped under my breast, and across my left collarbone. There were six minimalist black birds in flight. Cliché, I know, but I loved them. Lauren had had the same tattoo across her right collarbone. It was our “friendship tattoo,” an idea she had one rainy day last year when we skipped school. We’d gone to Rhys’ shop. That was actually the first day that I’d met him. Rhys and the other tattoo artist, Alex, did the tattoos without questioning us on our age because Lauren and Alex were dating. I drew in a breath, ignoring the pang that my jog down memory lane had brought on.
The receptionist pursed her lips and her tone iced over. “You’ll need to cover those up, dear. Dress code, you see. Have a great day,” she said, dismissing me coolly. I was used to the pursed lips and dismissal that my appearance brought on in most communities, particularly religious ones. It didn’t bother me. It amused me that I, of all people, was supposed to attend a Catholic school, but that’s irony for you. I nodded but didn’t make a move to cover my arms.
I glanced at my timetable and map before I headed out of the office. English, room 302. Upstairs. I made my way through the crowds and up the stairs. Everyone was still taking their time, as the warning bell hadn’t rung yet. Still, I tried the doorknob anyway. I didn’t want to hang out in the hall by myself. It was unlocked, so I slowly pushed it open.
You know in movies, how things move in slow motion when something significant happens? That’s what happened when I opened that door. I was somehow able to take in my surroundings quickly. The classroom was your typical high school classroom, the walls were an off-white, maybe cream colour and there were rows upon rows of empty desks, but that wasn’t the significant part.
My eyes were immediately drawn to the man sitting casually behind the desk. His feet were up and he was leaning back comfortably in his chair, drinking a coffee and looking at some papers on his lap. He was quite the specimen: dirty blond hair trimmed closer to his head at the sides, longer at the top, a little bit of stubble dusting across his jaw line like he hadn’t shaved in a few days. He was muscular for an English teacher, and young. If I had to guess, I’d place his age around 28 or so. He was dressed in the typical teacher uniform, but dress pants hugged quite snugly to his muscular legs. He looked up when I walked in, and his eyes were very piercing…the color of the bluest Caribbean sea. My heart skipped a beat and my stomach clenched, the body’s natural response to attraction. A response I hadn’t felt in a long time.
“Hello,” he said, smiling easily. Play it cool, I warned myself. I ran a hand through my hair and smiled sensually back as I walked toward him. That threw him off a little, and his easy smile turned into one of caution as he looked me up and down.
“Hi, I’m new here….Harlow Jones,” I said, extending my hand.
“I’m Mr. Bentley,” his grasp was strong. His hands were callused but somehow soft. The clenching in my stomach didn’t release, but intensified. I’d never been attracted to a teacher before. Of course, I’d never had a super hot young one before either. He tried not to look, but my chest was at perfect level with his eyes and I naturally hadn’t buttoned up the first two buttons of my uniform shirt, despite the receptionist’s warning about the dress code. It wasn’t an intentional; things around my neck, like tight collars, legitimately made me feel panicky. I watched his eyes take in the tattoo across my collarbone before I broke his gaze with my voice.
“Is there a seating arrangement?” I asked. He still had a hold of my hand. Dazed, he dropped it and smiled again. I took that opportunity to assess his hands, and he didn’t have appear to have a ring on. It amused me that I was concerned about that, of all things.
“Nope, sit wherever you’d like,” Mr. Bentley motioned around the room. Just then the warning bell rang, the sound ringing through my body. I stepped back, still smiling sensually. “Where are you from, Miss Jones?” he asked after a moment of charged (on my part, anyway) silence.
“Toronto. I used to attend Trafalgar’s All-Girl School,” I said, rather suggestively, just to gauge his response. In reality, I had only attended the school for a couple of months. He swallowed hard—the typical reaction guys gave when an all-girls school was mentioned. I watched his Adams apple bob up and down and smiled a little wider. He smiled back.
I was pretty good at gauging men. I had a lot of experience reading people, and I was naturally talented at it. I knew he found me attractive, but that didn’t mean anything would ever come of it.
When I saw something I wanted, I went for it. It didn’t matter who or what it was. I was typically assertive and self-aware. This personality trait didn’t just apply to men—and hadn’t, really, as I was distrustful of most men. This personality trait did create friction amongst my female peers, who all typically assumed the worse out of me, like I was a harlot or something. But that’s the thing with girls, if another girl is fairly decent in the looks department, she’s branded a whore whether or not she enjoys casual sex. That bit didn’t matter. If she was pretty with a nice body and guys interested in her, other girls got catty.
Although I had a reputation, I didn’t typically go out of my way to get affection from guys, at least not intentionally. I hadn’t met anyone that made me want to actively pursue them. I didn’t typically do “random hookups” and I stayed clear of the guys from my past high schools after ninth grade.
Rhys was different from other guys. For one, he had not gone to my high school. For two, he’d been just as disconnected from me as I’d been from him. We only ended up together because Lauren had been in love with his best friend, Alex, and they had spent nearly every available moment together. Rhys was cute and a stereotypically punk guy, but what I was feeling now, that impossible to ignore attraction for my English teacher, I’d never felt with Rhys. In fact, I wasn’t sure I had felt it with anyone before…at least not to this extent.
Iain Bentley was different. I felt as if I was awakening, finally, after months of being in a daze.
I couldn’t just go for a teacher…and I didn’t want to anyway. Or at least not just in the way that women imagine being with their favourite Hollywood actor. Innocent, because it’d never happen, but if the opportunity arose, then there wouldn’t be a moment’s hesitation.
I couldn’t help but wonder what the chances of an opportunity were. I knew exactly what Lauren would say: Make an opportunity for yourself! Go for it! I could almost hear her singsong voice in my head, daring me to make a move.
Before either of us could say anything else, students started to file into the classroom.
“Later, Mr. Bentley,” I said softly before snagging a desk toward the back of the room. I would have the perfect view of the front of the class, which would be a bonus. My heart was pounding as I sunk down into my seat.
It didn’t take long for Mr. Bentley to recover from our encounter, or for the classroom to fill up. He kept glancing over in my direction, which made me smile. The last to arrive were three girls, chattering away mindlessly about some party that happened the weekend before at some kid named Riley’s house. They came in as the final bell rang. Mr. Bentley waited until everyone was seated before he stood up.
“Welcome back,” Mr. Bentley said. His voice was smooth and yet rugged, and I think pretty much every single girl—and a few guys—in the room swooned when they saw him. Mr. Bentley turned to the blackboard and wrote his name in blocky letters. “I’m Mr. Bentley. It’s my first year teaching so go easy on me.”
Not at all, I thought. My eyes were drawn to his tight ass as he turned away from us to write on the blackboard. I wondered if he looked just as muscular with his clothes off as he did with them on. An entertaining thought, one that most of the girls (and those few guys) were probably sharing. I noticed the three girls near me staring at him with appreciation and giggling in whispered tones.
Mr. Bentley decided that instead of doing actual work on the first day, that we’d play a “get to know one another” game. We each had to say our names and one word about ourselves. Then he wanted us to write a short essay on ourselves so that he could both get to know us and ballpark what kind of students we’d be. The essay was due on Thursday.
I could have a lot of fun with this activity. I thought about all the possibilities while I watched each of the students say something about themselves.
“My name’s Jenna and one word to describe me would be fun!” one of the girls, who was one of the last three to arrive, declared flirtatiously. She had shoulder-length blonde hair cut in layers, with all-American baby blue eyes. I got the impression that she was one of the self-declared popular girls. Every high school has them, the group of well-groomed, somewhat pretty girls that think they own the school. She was sitting with two other girls, and they all giggled along with her.
“I’m Callie and one word to describe me is playful!” the platinum blonde girl in front of Jenna said.
“I’m Tara and I’m happy!” the dark haired girl in their trio said with a high-pitched laugh that made me wince. I rolled my eyes, frowning. Soon it was my turn.
“My name’s Harlow, and one word to describe me is single.” I said, pointedly looking at Mr. Bentley with wide, innocent eyes. I might as well go in with a bang, since I was likely to go out with one.
Several of the guys turned in their seats to check me out, and I smiled. I was almost in my element. It still stung, knowing I was missing my comrade in arms, but still. I knew she’d be proud.
Being flirtatious and sensational was…fun. I’d always been a flirt, especially when Lauren was around. She had been just as bad, if not worse, than me.
Aside from Lauren, I had always gotten along better with guys because they were easier to read than girls, and they typically had less bullshit attached. Sure, the occasional guy didn’t fit that description, but even with my past…I’d encountered more crappy girls than guys, which was saying something.
Jenna, Callie, and Tara sent me a dirty glance. I could feel the waves of dislike coming off them already. Whoa. I’d never moved that quickly onto the popular group’s radar before. Impressive, even for me.
“Well then.” Mr. Bentley cleared his throat, trying not to laugh. “I’m sure a lot of the guys here are glad to hear that, Harlow.” His eyes brushed over me again, flickering with interest, before moving on to the student behind me.
“My name’s Riley and I’m horny,” the guy behind me declared, trying to go along with what I said. Everybody but Mr. Bentley and I laughed. I looked over my shoulder. Riley was pretty hot, although he paled in comparison to Mr. Bentley. I was now likely to compare every guy I met with Mr. Bentley. He’d set a high bar, one that I doubted anyone would come close to. Riley had fair hair cut close to his head and styled expertly, light eyes, and a smile that suggested he was popular and accustomed to getting what he wanted. He must be the same Riley that the girls had been talking about before class. “What are you doing tonight?” he asked me in a lower tone, raising his eyebrow.
“Sorry, working,” I replied before turning back to the front of the class. I had a smile on my face again. I enjoyed getting hit on and asked out; what girl didn’t? Although dating a guy who spent more time doing his hair than I did definitely wasn’t on my list.
“Alright, that’s enough.” Mr. Bentley looked visibly aggravated. “None of that in my classroom, please, Mr. Douglas. Can you think of another word?”
“Disappointed,” Riley shrugged. “But determined.”
“Alright then,” Mr. Bentley said, clenching his jaw slightly. I couldn’t read if he was jealous or simply irritated by the exchange happening in his classroom. I hoped it was the first one. “Moving on. Next?”
The rest of the replies were safe and boring, and toward the end of class Mr. Bentley again reminded us about our essays. The bell rang, singling the end of class, and people started to pack up their books.
“Homework already,” Riley groaned, complaining loudly.
“Oh, don’t sweat it Riley, you’ll have no trouble writing about yourself. It’s your favourite topic,” Jenna said, tossing a curious look over her shoulder at me. Callie and Tara were both staring with open hostility.
“True,” Riley replied, laughing. I finished shoving the rest of my books into my bag and stood up. I breezed past the group of girls and a few other stragglers, who were clearly waiting around to get a few more minutes of Mr. Bentley. He was standing at his desk, organizing some papers. He looked up at me as I was walking, and again it felt like time slowed down a bit…to me, anyway. I raised my eyebrows suggestively at him as I passed, and he quickly looked down. I was making him uncomfortable, but I couldn’t tell why just yet.